Tags: Coronavirus | Religion | church | west virginia | outbreak | reopening

Coronavirus Outbreaks Hit 5 West Virginia Churches

black car parked outside a sign for sago baptist church
Sago Baptist Church in Sago, West Virginia (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 16 June 2020 09:43 AM

Recent coronavirus cases in West Virginia are linked to five churches, Yahoo News reports.

Less than a month after President Donald Trump asked governors to allow churches to reopen, the state of West Virginia has seen spikes in cases that tie back to churches, according to the state’s public health office.

The latest church outbreak was announced Saturday in a press release issued by the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources.

The release states that five churches have reported coronavirus outbreaks, with the most recent one taking place in Greenbrier County. The Greenbrier County church reported at least 17 coronavirus cases, according to the release. On Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the number of cases at that church increased to 28. During a press conference on Monday, he identified the church as Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg.  

Through community spread, state health officials told Yahoo News it is likely that the number of coronavirus cases traced back to that church totals 79.

“DHHR is monitoring any increase in COVID-19 cases with coordination from the local health department,” said Allison Adler, director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Adler said that the West Virginia National Guard was assisting in the outbreak response, including by helping clean the churches.

Justice hinted that perhaps church officials did not take enough safety precautions to prevent an outbreak from taking place but said that was only “hearsay.”

“Maybe we didn’t use the level of caution there,” Justice said. “Maybe we didn’t social distance properly, or properly wear masks.”

Graystone Baptist posted a statement on Facebook on Saturday afternoon stating social distancing rules were followed. 

“We greatly encouraged anyone who was feeling ill to remain home. Attending church was on a voluntary basis. We exemplified social distancing within the church walls,” the statement said. “We made aware and made use of hand sanitizing stations and Antibacterial sprays. We do not understand the source of the outbreak. To the best of our ability we followed the guidelines that were given to us.”

Despite being allowed to open, some houses of worship have remained closed.

Rabbi Joe Blair of Temple Israel in the state capital of Charleston told Yahoo News he would only resume in-person services "when it is safe and prudent to do so." He said he is worried about the safety of the elderly members of his congregation. 

Pastor Bruce Lane of Chestnut Creek megachurch in Morgantown said he hopes to resume in-person services in early August.

"We've decided to be a little cautious right now," he said. 

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Recent coronavirus cases in West Virginia are linked to five churches, Yahoo News reports. Less than a month after President Donald Trump asked governors to allow churches to reopen, the state of West Virginia has seen spikes in cases that tie back to churches, according to...
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2020-43-16
Tuesday, 16 June 2020 09:43 AM
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